June 11, 2018

Don’t let “healthy” beverages undermine your weight-loss efforts. Here’s how to avoid calories in drinks.

When trying to lose weight, you’re probably doing a great job eating more vegetables, avoiding saturated fats and making sure you’re eating nutritious meals — right?

If you’re doing all that and yet the weight’s not coming off, double-check your drinking habits — and we don’t mean just at happy hour.  You may be taking in more calories than you realize from all your beverages. Drinks such as water, coffee and tea are naturally calorie-free, but we often add calories, in the form of cream or sugar, to enhance the flavor.

Many chain restaurants and coffee houses post their nutrition information online. Look on their websites to find the sugar and calorie content of your favorite drink. If those numbers are a lot higher than you expected, cut out these beverage habits for a while to boost your weight loss. Or, follow these tips to cut back on the sugar, fat and calories that come with some of the classic high-calorie culprits:

Coffee drinks

  • Try your drink with fat-free or low-fat milk instead of whole milk or half-and-half.
  • Forgo the extra flavoring. The calories from sugary syrups — all those flavored shots such as vanilla, hazelnut and pumpkin — really add up. Cut back on added sugar by requesting sugar-free syrup or asking for one pump of syrup instead of the usual three to four pumps.
  • Skip the whip! Whipped toppings add about 80 calories and 8 grams of fat.



  • Ask for the smallest size available. Smoothies are tightly packed with nutrients; you don’t need a huge one to receive the benefits of all the fruit and vegetables.
  • Hold the sugar. Often smoothies contain added sugar (for example, turbinado). However, fruit contains plenty of natural sugar to sweeten your smoothie. Request yours without added sugar and save at least 100 calories and 20 grams of added sugar.
  • Instead of buying your drink from a smoothie chain, make your own at home, so you know exactly what’s in your cup. For a delicious summertime breakfast smoothie, try this one with fresh peaches.



  • Steer clear of sweet cocktails and sugary mixers. Try club soda as your mixer and add flavor with fresh fruit, such as orange slices, lemons and limes.
  • Enjoy alcohol in moderation. This means no more than one drink per day for women and two drinks per day for men. Sip slowly.
  • Skip the alcohol entirely in favor of a mocktail.


Of course, water is always your friend, whether you’re trying to lose weight or you’re at a healthy weight already. Drink plenty of water throughout the day to stay hydrated, ward off hunger, help your digestive system run smoothly and avoid headaches and lethargy. Add some fruit to your water if you don’t like drinking it plain, but water should be the liquid you take in throughout the day, every day.


These tips are from Health Plus, which provides resources to support the health of Vanderbilt University Medical Center faculty and staff.